Amnesty International Australia’s Indigenous Rights Advocate Joel Clark has welcomed the “positive effect” the Queensland Youth Justice Amendment Bill will have on the numbers of children in prison.

“This is serious reform that goes a long way towards fixing Queensland’s broken youth justice system,” Mr Clark said.

“By addressing major concerns around bail…it will reduce the number of kids in prison, meaning the government will no longer have to rely on watch houses.”

The Bill will go before the Queensland Parliament during its next sitting in late July at the earliest.

After several issues were exposed in an ABC Four Corners investigation, the Bill outlines key reforms to ensure a number of safeguards for children in custody including:

  • Ensuring child detention as a last resort applies to bail
  • Special protection and care for children younger than 14-years-old
  • Prohibiting locking up children only because they have no accommodation or no apparent family support
  • A new principle requiring the youth justice system to give priority to proceedings for young people in custody
  • A requirement that arrested and detained youth are brought before the Children’s Court as soon as possible and within 24 hours (or the next available day).

Mr Clark said these were “massive steps forward” for reforming Queensland’s youth justice system.

“The amendments allow kids to get the support that will help them thrive and get them out of the youth justice quicksand,” Mr Clark said.

He said Amnesty International Australia is also calling on Parliament to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14-years-old and to ban children being held overnight in watch houses “to ensure that kids never have to face the horrors that were exposed in the Brisbane City Watch House.”

Mr Clark said this reform has come from the “long and sustained campaigning” from multiple organisations that should take pride in the positive impact they have had on Queensland’s children.